Not only is it 5:00 somewhere, it is 5:00 HERE. The salmon (wild) is marinating, the sweet potatoes and samosas (alas, not homemade - they are on my list of "someday, I will make these.") are in the oven, and I have already sautéd the bok choy in garlic and ginger. Today I am packing supplies to take to Cleveland: a whole suitcase full of paints, screens, and fabrics. I may yet unpack and put them in a box to ship them, but it is less expensive to let Continental airlines take them. I've double-wrapped my ProChem paints in newspaper, plastic, and bubble wrap, but I am willing to bet they get opened and not properly closed again. It has happened before. My clothes are going in the small suitcase. But of course, I have almost two weeks to unpack, rearrange, repack, and do it again.
This morning I went to the Gaelen Gallery at the JCC to do a gallery talk about my exhibit to the "senior citizens" group that meets there every week, or for all I know, every day. (I hate that term, don't you? Senior, forgodsake - I hate to think where they are going after they graduate.)
The group was lively, bright, and had interesting questions -- but it was beforehand and afterwards that I was blown away by conversations with two people. Before the program started, one of the gallery employees came in to tell me what an impact this piece had had on him.
It's the GHETTO,he said. It looks just like where I grew up in the PROJECTS in Newark: everybody squeezed in like sardines - buildings close together, people killing each other: the PROJECTS. Yes, I said - it was Poland and it was a PROJECT - a Soviet apartment block, concrete, chipped, falling off the building, laundry hanging from the balconies, impersonal, ugly, poor - a government project in Eastern Europe. But it could have been anywhere.We talked about the word GHETTO and how it is an Italian word that means "foundry." The first ghetto was in 16th Century Venice, in the area where there was a metal foundry. The word has since taken on a broader meaning, of course.
We then had a discussion about government-built housing - the projects of the '60's - well meaning but ill-conceived -- now being blown up and replaced by town houses. David, the man I was speaking to, was sure that every government in the world had the same set of plans, passed from one to the other: whether in Dubai, Italy, France, or in Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia, Cleveland, - urban blight created by tearing down neighborhoods and building monolithic, impersonal, housing. The issues are more complex than we could have talked about in the 15 minutes we were together, but it was a stimulating conversation.
There are certain universals - and I was so happy that my art struck a chord with this man, who is an artist himself, and that he had been in to look at that piece many times in the week since it went up. For me, that is what all art is about: having the viewer bring his/her own experiences & sensibilities to a piece and having a dialog with it. Don't you feel that way, too?
The second high point came after the program, as I was walking out. A woman named Helen approached me and told me that her heart stopped when she saw this piece:
I was in Auschwitz, she said. I wouldn't go back to visit. Sent to the camps as a child with her parents and brother, she, her father, and her brother somehow survived. She showed me her tattoo - the blue numbers on her left forearm, there since she was a child. The wires were electrified at night, but not during the day, she said. The matron liked me and would give me extra bread,so I took it to the fence and threw it to my father. She was 14 when the camps were liberated, met her husband at 15 and married at 16.
I hardly knew what to say: it was the first time I had ever spoken to a survivor about her/his experience. When I was a child there was a couple who had a handbag store in Montclair. They had numbers tattoo'd on their forearms and my parents used to whisper about the fact that they had been in the camps. It was not ever a subject to be brought up in their presence but it was difficult not to look.
I went to give a gallery talk this morning and I got far more in return than I was able to give.